Once again, I have for you a story of something out of nothing. A glut of asparagus. A rapidly defrosting freezer. And then, one of the prettiest dinners I have made in quite some time.
The base is puff pastry from the story. A mixture of cream cheese and chopped herbs is topped with a single layer of trimmed, thin asparagus. Baked for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven, and then you can present a dish that looks like you have worked for hours. I envision this as a lovely appetizer at cocktails or a light lunch with a salad of tomatoes. So hurry off to the kitchen and no one else will be the wiser.
My family has very strong opinions about polenta. It’s one of the foods traditional to the valley I was born and holds an important spot in my mother’s food identity. Goodness forbid you try to serve her a quick-cook polenta or something out of those vacuum packs. She will have no mercy.
For her, polenta is cooks for a full hour., over low heat with occasionally stirring. I remember a vacation in which we went skiing with some friends. One of the adults was a professional chef. After a long day outside, we can back to find him whipping polenta in the kitchen. I thought my mother was going to have a conniption.
This is not my mother’s polenta.
Don’t get me wrong: I love her polenta. It is creamy and rich without the aid of butter, cream, or cheese. But this is a quick dinner polenta. Delicious with a pile of sauteed mushrooms and a Caesar salad. Crisped up in a pan. Since it is so fast, it works in the early summer too. It would be fantastic topped with fresh tomatoes and cheese or perhaps sauteed zucchini with garlic.
serves 2 as a main
1/2 c course ground cornmeal
2 c water
1/2 tsp salt
In a medium pot, bring water and salt to a boil. Once boiling, whisk in cornmeal. Return mixture to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Stirring occasionally, cook 10-15 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
Preheat a skillet pan with some olive oil. Pour hot cornmeal into skillet pan. Fry 2-3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Flip and fry on other side. Slice and serve.
As some of you may know, I have been exceptionally busy this summer with a wedding in less than 6 weeks. But I was able to get away for a little bit thanks to work and see some of the West Coast. I’d have to say that San Francisco is even more beautiful than I could have imagined. If I was going to move to the West Coast, it would be at the top of the list of destinations!
The hills were all that they were chalked up to be. I packed Moleskine and thick socks, which were not exactly fashionable but saved my feet. I was really impressed and inspired by the landscape and flora. It must have a very similar climate to the northern Italian coast. I saw Bougainvillea, succulents, and honeysuckle. The Presidio was one of the strangest places I’ve ever seen. It seemed like a Disney-fied version of a military base, which I suppose it is.
Fisherman’s Wharf was foggy when I stopped by but I was able to see a few sea lions. I instead spent more time in the Embarcadero, a magical tunnel of all the food you could ever want to eat. I was able to pick up some amazing dried beans and Rancho Gordo and a bite of cheese at Cowgirl Creamery. I could have spent hours in the Ferry Plaza market outside! Unlike the indoor stores, the outdoor stalls are only available on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Sometimes your weekend needs little nudge into awesomeness. Just like sometimes I need a little nudge to publish something (sorry about that). This is an excellent nudge and I knew I couldn’t not share it with you. Sausage and gravy is one of my favorite things to order at old country diners. You know the kind, preferably with a cow painted on everything.
Apparently Bobby Flay’s wife loves it too. Lucky lady. Thus far, if I want biscuits and gravy, I have to make them. But maybe that will change. For now I remain the biscuit champion in our little world!
This month’s book may be late but it is well worth your attention. Therese Anne Fowler has written a novel on Zelda Fitzgerald. It covers shortly before her 18th birthday to F. Scott’s death in 1940 and slightly beyond.
It details their wartime courtship, quiet New York City wedding, and subsequent move to Long Island, whose lavish parties and extravagant lifestyle inspired Great Gatsby. In a search for quiet life, the couple moved to Paris where Scott became involved with a new set including Hemingway. It provides another side to the Hemingway/Fitzgerald friendship which has made me rethink Hemingway as an author. I knew there was a reason for his macho-man persona!
Zelda’s mental problems naturally make up a part of the storyline. Frankly, they seem as much Scott’s problem as anything which is wrong with her. True, she is feisty and a little wild, but she is nothing compared to today’s socialites and reality TV stars. I couldn’t help but wonder if she would have been happier if she lived nowadays, without Scott’s constant desire to provide for her and to prevent her from excelling in anything she would like to do.
Zelda’s writing was published under Scott’s name, her ballet career was halted, and her painting restricted, at least in the story. I don’t know how accurate a text it is, but I don’t really care. I found the book enthralling and really beautiful. So often the picture that we have a Zelda Fitzgerald is a partial one. Hemingway’s vicious characterization in A Moveable Feast. Scott’s skewed portrait in Tender is the Night. The wild and lost Zelda of the film Midnight in Paris.
Finally, Zelda is given her own voice. And, boy, does she have a story to tell.